Friday, June 10, 2011

In the Garden of Beasts - Book Review

When my brother-in-law Pete recommends a book, I really try to read it. He has impeccable literary tastes. Several years ago, Pete suggested that I read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I enjoyed every moment of that entertaining, enlightening and disturbing book. I've since encouraged my book club to read and Utah Dad. I loaned my copy to my brother because I knew he would like it. He's had it for awhile now. Hint. Hint.

As I mentioned in the last post, I read Thunderstruck by Erik Larson while I was in labor with Lilly. While I did enjoy it, I didn't find it as amazing as The Devil in the White City. Even so, I am definitely a fan of Larson's work and when I saw that he had published a new work, I was anxious to read it and thrilled to receive/win a copy from Goodreads.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson is a historical work about William E. Dodd, an unlikely choice for Ambassador to Germany in 1933. When Dodd and his family arrive in Germany, he discovers a beautiful place that has been rejuvenated since the First World War. American tourists didn't notice anything but the beauty and friendly people. However, Hitler and the Nazis have risen to power but hunger for complete control. During this year, Hitler will seize complete power and it will become the tipping point for this history of Germany and the world.

Dodd's family accompanied him on his mission in Germany, including his daughter, Martha. Martha's many liaisons with powerful men in the Nazi party, Gestapo, and French and Soviet embassies become an integral and intriguing part of the story.

While most people did not fully recognize the dangers of Hitler's regime and even Dodd was a bit awestruck at first, Dodd eventually has his eyes open to the horrible ideologies and actions of the Nazis. It is unfortunate that very few believed Dodd.

The history of this book is absolutely fascinating, frightening and sobering. I simply could not put it down and read late into the night to finish it. Larson's skills as a writer are superb. He especially excels at allowing the characters to live on the pages. Both their flaws and attributes are included as Larson uses documentation from fans and foes. While Larson writes as an objective observer, the evil and depravity of the Nazi Party and Hitler are clearly revealed.

This evil is, of course, not a surprise. We all know of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust. What I found especially interesting about this particular book is just how Hitler gained the power he needed to commit the atrocities and how the other nations essentially turned a blind eye to the early warning signs in the name of maintaining peace. Knowing the ultimate end and consequences, makes reading this book much more powerful and alarming.

Because The Devil in the White City alternates between the two story lines of a twisted serial killer and the building of the 1893 World Fair in Chicago, there are equal moments of evil and beauty. However, In the Garden of Beasts is darker and more sinister. This, of course, isn't surprising, since Hitler and his Nazis caused unmeasurable destruction, fear, and sorrow for the entire world.

Once again, Larson has written a very readable and completely fascinating and disturbing book of history.

I won a free copy of In the Garden of Beasts from in exchange for my honest opinion. No other compensation was received.

1 comment:

alisonwonderland said...

I really liked The Devil in the White City, but I haven't read anything else by Larson yet. This one sounds very good. Thanks for the terrific review!